Asteroids Might Have Brought Water On Earth, New Study Revealed


Tuesday's session on Apophis engaged scientists to discuss everything from how to observe the event, to possible hypothetical missions NASA and other space agencies could send out to the asteroid. Fortunately, additional observations refined the orbit and completely ruled out that possibility. "We found the samples we examined were enriched in water compared to the average for inner solar system objects", said Ziliang Jin, first author of the paper published in Science Advances and a postdoctoral scholar at ASU. According to NASA, Itokawa was discovered on September 26, 1998, by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research Team at Socorro, New Mexico.

Yet, two cosmochemists at the Arizona State University (ASU) followed their hunch to find that not only did Itokawa contain water but that half of the world's oceans could be a by product of hundreds of asteroids just like it.

The two Itokawa particles studied by Jin and Bose are tiny: For comparison, a human hair is 100 to 500 microns in diameter.

Researchers looked at the samples' mineral grains and found that they were surprisingly rich in water.

We used a device called a mass spectrometer, specifically the NanoSIMS, to measure water and D/H ratios in the Itokawa samples.

The findings are sort of curious and freakish given the fact that Itokawa is labeled as an s-type of an asteroid which means that the rock is stony. Even though these objects are on the small side, they also maintain the materials they formed with.

Apophis is about 30 times bigger than the typical asteroid spotted flying a similar distance from our planet. This orbit brings it both closer to and further away from the star than the Earth-Sun distance.

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One particularly interesting note is that the 1,100-foot-wide asteroid will pass so close to Earth that it'll be visible without the need for a telescope.

Normally, you wouldn't think to look for water on an asteroid, especially in a nominally dry asteroid like Itokawa.

Asteroid Itokawa is a battered remnant of a larger parent body.

Two of the fragments, known as lobes, merged about 8 million years ago.

The researchers analyzed samples of the Itokawa asteroid. The asteroid received a level four rating on the Torino Scale, which is the highest assignment for a near-Earth object ever in our history. The researchers suspected that the Itokawa particles might also have traces of water, but they wanted to know exactly how much.

The minerals have hydrogen isotopic compositions that are indistinguishable from Earth.

The S-type asteroid Itokawa.